Hey all, it's been a year of change for the northern academies this year, which I'll explain further below. But it looks like there are a few great prospects for the Swans to pounce on at the draft.
Changes to Div 2 Championships
Prior to this year, the U18 Championships were split into two divisions, with Vic Metro, Vic Country, South Australia and Western Australia in Division 1, and the non-footy heartland states in New South Wales, Queensland, Northern Territory and Tasmania in Division 2. At the end of the Div 2 season, which happens before Div 1 starts, the best players would form an "Allies" side to play against the stronger teams.
This has changed in 2017. Gone are the state sides of New South Wales and Queensland, instead being replaced by the Swans, Giants, Lions, and Suns academy teams. Northern Territory and Tasmania fill out the rest of the teams. The best Division 2 players still play in the Allies team in Division 1.
How the Swans fared in Division 2
Our Academy boys had a great season, winning the league. Even better, we were unbeaten across all five games with a percentage of over 150.
Last year only two Swans academy players were listed in the initial Allies squad (Ben Davis and Angus Baker), with Jake Brown being a late inclusion. This year that number has rocketed up to nine players, highlighting our improvement.
Whilst there weren't too many star performances when compared to the other academies, the tight-knit group worked together very well as a unit. Of the below, with the exception of Blakey for 2018, none of the players have been discussed very much in the phantom drafts top 20, which bodes well for us!
Jarrod Osborne 180cm 79kg Junior Club: Manly - Winner of the Swans MVP for the series after coming into the series late, and not playing for NSW in 2016.
A determined left footed midfielder who can use the ball well by hand and foot, he has also played two games with the Swans reserves in the NEAFL. Against a formidable team in the Giants reserves, he had nine disposals, two marks, and two tackles from limited time on ground, in what was a great introduction for him.
Against the Tasmanians in the last Division 2 game, he was the leading possession winner, with 22 touches and an impressive 10 tackles.
Luke Skrivanic 182cm 74kg Junior Club: Pennant Hills - After an injury riddled 2016, Skrivanic showed what he was made of in the "Academy Championships", kicking 11 goals as a midfielder/half forward. Has excellent football nous, putting himself in the right position more often than not.
James Bell 183cm 75kg Junior Club: Illawarra Thunder - Could've joined the Western Sydney Wanderers academy, but luckily chose AFL. Shows heaps of exciting raw talent, and really could be anything. Was selected for the Swans NEAFL qualifying final team and didn't look too out of place. Has excellent turn of pace, can lay a tackle, and can pop up for a goal. Some consistency in decision making would help his chances.
Jake Brown 185cm 76kg Junior Club: St George- Been very impressive after being overlooked in the 2016 draft thanks mostly to a dodgy shoulder. The midfielder has taken his game to another level, averaging 22 disposals per game. His endurance running is a highlight, but unlike Jack Hiscox, that's not the only string to his bow. Had a 15.3 beep test in 2016 testing, and could get a go in the 2017 draft.
Jack Hardman 173cm 67kg Junior Club: Warners Bay Bulldogs - This guy has pace! Just check this video from when he was playing in the Swans NEAFL team.
He kicks the ball inside 50, and almost follows up on his own kick with a beautiful behind. In the NSW/ACT Rams side in the TAC Cup last year he played two games, averaging 17 disposals and four marks, kicking 5 goals. His size is a slight problem, but he has courage, pace, and can definitely kick a goal. Plus he ought to be drafted on his name alone! Being born on the 31st December, he would be the youngest player in his draft year should he make it.
Nick Blakey 194cm 75kg Junior Club: UNSW - Last but definitely not least, Nick is the brightest prospect of the lot. Son of current Swans Assistant Coach John, Nick can be drafted by the Swans as an Academy pick, or the Lions or Kangaroos as a father-son pick. Fingers are very crossed that he picks us! However, he is an underage player, meaning he won't be drafted until the 2018 Draft next year.
Was picked as part of an AFL Academy team to play against a New Zealand team and suffered concussion which put him out of action for the last two Championship games. However he did kick four goals in a quarter against the Suns team, one of his many highlights for the year.
Being picked for the Allies squad as an underage key forward shows how highly Blakey is rated. At 193cm already, he looks like an ideal replacement for Buddy or Tippett. Could even push 200cm by draft time next year!
Big congrats also go to Michael Carroll, Harrison Carr, and Luke Robertson who also made the Division 1 Allies squad.
Shayden Close is another youngster coming through the ranks who will be looked at closely as a freakish small forward.
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